Family Films

Here are the latest Let’s Go With The Children film reviews you can see on the big screen and via streaming or download sites.

The below film guides are written by Mike Davies for Let’s Go with the Children especially with families and kids in mind. Everything from small-scale films to great blockbusters for all the family! Please note that not all 12A films are appropriate for younger children. Let’s Go With The Children offers a guide to what’s suitable for family viewing.

Let’s Go With The Children will keep you up to date with what you can see both on the big screen and via streaming or download sites.

Inside Out 2 (PG)

Released in 2015, the original ranks among Pixar’s finest, alongside the Toy Story series and Up. Now, eight years later we revisit Riley (Kensington Tallman)’s emotions as she turns 13, those   operating the console inside her emotional Headquarters  still lining up as the primal emotions of irrepressible yellow Joy (Amy Poehler), the green Disgust (Liza Lapira taking over from Mindy Kaling), red Anger (Lewis Black), blue Sadness (Phyllis Smith) and the purple Fear (Tony Hale replacing Bill Hader). They’ve created a  new section of Riley’s mind called her Sense of Self, the repository of the   memories and feelings that form Riley’s core personality, Joy having consigned any negative memories to the back of her mind.

A star player on the school hockey team alongside best friends Bree and Grace, the trio are invited to take part in a hockey camp so she can apply for a place on the team at her new high school. However, the emotions are  shocked when a demolition crew barges in to tear the place apart and reconstruct it for Riley’s new phase. And, even more when, as with Harry Enfield’s Kevin the Teenager, the transition into puberty brings out an overnight change, the hitherto sweet Riley waking up and telling her mother (Diane Lane) to back off, and being snappy with dad (Kyle MacLachlan),  every interaction with the console causing her to overreact. And that’s just the start as, to their surprise, puberty ushers in a whole new crew of emotions, headed up by orange wide-mouthed nervous wreck Anxiety (Maya Hawke), catty cyan Envy (Ayo Edibiri), the pink and bulky Embarrassment (Paul Walter Hauser) in his grey hoodie and the snooty Indigo-coloured bored Ennui (Adèle Exarchopoulos), or Ui Ui as Joy calls him, who lounges on the couch.

With Riley having learnt her besties are going to a different school, Anxiety takes over plaguing her with all manner of insecurities and negative scenarios about what lies ahead, seeing her torn between sticking with her friends or trying to act cool and become part of a new clique headed up by Val (Lilimar), the star player on the Firehawks, the team at her new school. Clashes between Joy and the misguidedly overprotective Anxiety over how Riley should act leads to her Sense Of Self being dumped at the back of her mind and Joy and the other emotions on her team being quite literally bottled up and imprisoned by the Mind Cops in a vault that also  holds various imaginary characters from Riley’s head, including a giant dark hooded figure representing her deepest dark secret,  video game character Lance Slashblade on  whom the younger  Riley had a crush and the hand drawn Bloofy and Pouchy from  her  favourite childhood TV show. The task now is to somehow get to the Back of the Mind and make it back to Headquarters and restore Riley’s Sense of Self before she has a total meltdown.

Decidedly busier than the first film with all the new characters, even so it’s still rooted in the same premise about being in touch with our feelings, the message being that we are defined by all of them, the negative and the positive, and how both can lead us astray in attempting to fit in, and not repressing sides of ourselves for fear of being judged. It’s also awash with more wittily clever wordplay, Joy and the others finding themselves teetering on the Sar Chasm, riding down the Stream Of Consciousness, being assailed by a Brainstorm of ideas (including a very Big one) and  Joy trying to calm the frantic Anxiety down  with a cup of Anxi Tea. There’s also an occasional before her time appearance by the elderly Nostalgia (June Squibb) and a UK only cameo by television personality Sam Thompson as Security Man Sam. It doesn’t have quite the novelty of the first film, but the emotions it will uncork in its audience all come bubbling to the sniffle surface.  

96 minutes


John looks at two cats, one the titular Garfield, eating food in an open fridge.

The Garfield Movie (PG)

A sort of origin movie for the internationally famous lazy, Mondays-hating, lasagne-loving, snarky cartoon ginger fat cat, the opening scenes reveal how, apparently abandoned in an alley by his street cat dad Vic (Samuel L Jackson), kitten Garfield (Chris Pratt) spots Jon Arbuckle (Nicholas Hoult) in an Italian restaurant and, taking an instant liking for pepperoni pizza and all things pasta, cutely inveigles his way into his life and refrigerator, even allowing him to have a canine companion, yellow beagle Odie (Harvey Guillén), who becomes his own personal factotum.

Fast forward several years and furry pounds, and who should re-enter Garfield’s life, upsetting his lazy life of scoffing carbs and watching Catflix but Vic, who needs his estranged offspring’s help in settling a debt to his old street gang Persian cat boss Jinx (Hannah Waddingham) by stealing gallons of milk to make up for the time she spent in the pound on his account.

The plan is to break into the heavily fortified Lactose Farms dairy theme park and steal thousands of bottles, to which end they need to recruit its cast-aside former mascot  Otto (Ving Rhames), a grumpy bull with a penchant for dramatic pauses, by promising to reunite him with the cow of his life, Unfortunately, they also have to deal with Animal  Control officer Marge (Cecily Strong) and Jinx’s numbskull henchmen, musclebound Shar Pei Roland and weaselly whippet Nolan.

It’ll come as no surprise to learn the real reason Vic abandoned Garfield as the film follows a warmly familiar parent-child reconciliation path, but, alongside the whiskers-wetting sentimentality, there’s a steady stream of fun adventures and action not to mention a voice cameo by Snoop Dogg as Scoop Catt and, given, the trio’s Mission Impossible-style heist, amusing gags about Tom Cruise (“In case you’re wondering, I do my own stunts!”, says Garfield) and even a steal from the Top Gun score.

Unlike the cartoon strip which is very much written for grown-ups, this colourfully and zappily animated affair is predominantly pitched at a kiddie audience who should lap it up while waiting for the next appearance by the  Minions while offering other gags to entertain the adults too, as well as a warning about keeping tabs on their children using their smartphones to run up a huge Deliveroo bill.

101 mins


IF (U)

Actor-writer-director John Krasinski makes his family movie debut with this at times messy but ultimately charmingly sweet and touching animated and live-action ode to the magic of childhood imagination and its loss as we grow older.

Her mother having died when she was young and her forever joking father (Krasinski) in hospital with a physically and metaphorically broken heart, in-a-hurry-to-grow-up 12-year-old (“I’m not a child”) New Yorker Bea (the disarmingly winning Cailey Fleming) moves in with her grandmother Margaret (Fiona Shaw). Glimpsing what she believes to be girl who lives upstairs, she ventures up to explore and meets Cal (Ryan Reynolds dialling down the flippancy in favour of sincerity), who insists he lives alone. However, following him one evening, she finds herself introduced to the world of IFs, or imaginary friends, such as the massive, furry and very purple Blue (Steve Carell) and Blossom (Phoebe Waller-Bridge), the Betty Boop crossed with a butterfly figure she spied earlier and who lives in Cal’s apartment. Like Cal, only she can see them. It’s a bit like The Sixth Sense for kids – I see imaginary people.

Cal introduces her to the Coney Island retirement home for IFs, who, like the discarded toys in Toy Story (the film also knowingly borrows from Monsters Inc.), have long been forgotten by their former children. It’s Cal, Blue and Blossom’s mission to reunite them with their old kids (in Blue’s case Bobby Moynihan’s dispirited Jeremy) or to find someone else to need them.

Blossom, it turns out was her grandmother’s IF and still keeps a watchful eye on her, while Bea tries to find an IF who can bond with Benjamin (Alan Kim), the young boy she meets on her visits to see her dad. In the process, she rediscovers her own still beating inner child, and it’s not too hard to work out who was her IF.
There’s a star-studded voice cast of cameos as the array of IFs, among them Bradley Cooper as an ice-cube in a half-full water glass, Christopher Meloni’s over-enthusiastic raincoated spy, Amy Schumer’s giant red gummy bear, Louis Gossett Jr. as elderly teddy bear Lewis, Matt Damon’s sunflower Sunny, Sam Rockwell as Guardian Dog, Awkwafina as Bubble (a bubble!), Blake Lively as Octopuss, a cat in an octopus costume, George Clooney’s astronaut, Vince Vaughn as Dragon, Krasinski’s wife Emily Blunt as the English-accented Unicorn and Krasinski himself as Marshmallow Man. There’s even Brad Pitt as the invisible Frank.

They’re all great fun but also contribute to the underlying sadness of once loved imaginary companions who have outlived their usefulness, the warmly sentimental and melancholic film ultimately and often quite poignantly (as with Jeremy and the smell of a freshly baked croissant, for those who get the Proust reference) reconnecting them once more. There’s some wonderful flourishes of imagination, such as the musical sequence in the retirement home to Tina Turner’s Better Be Good To Me, and Cal falling into and climbing out of a work of art, his clothes covered in paint, the film a ray of light and a heartfelt reminder that there’s still magic and hope in an often cynical world.

104 mins


Kung Fu Panda 4 (12A)

One of the last films to be made by the soon to be close DreamWorks Animation, after eight years this brings back Jack Black (whose band Tenacious D sings Britney Spear’s Baby One More Time over the end credits) to voice a fourth adventure by the dumpling-loving giant panda who has now become the celebrated Dragon Master protecting the Valley Of Peace and is setting up his own noodle restaurant. However, he’s taken aback to be told by his mentor, Master Shifu (a croaky Dustin Hoffman), that it is time to move on, become Spiritual Leader and pass the torch, or in this case Spirit Staff, to the one he chooses to be his successor (in a parade of candidates he ends up choosing himself).

Such mission, however, is distracted when he finds himself reluctantly teamed with a streetsmart ninja fox thief named Zhen (Awkwafina, always fun), who he caught stealing from the Hall Of Mirrors, and in criminal-infested Juniper City (where no one’s heard of the Dragon Master), where Zhen’s pangolin cousin (Oscar winner Ke Huy Quan) runs the Den Of Thieves, and up against shape-shifting sorceress Chameleon (a nicely sinister Viola Davis) who is scheming to get his staff and bring back his vanquished enemies from the spirit realm, among them snow leopard Tai Lung (Ian McShane), so she can steal their powers and rule the world. Meanwhile, in what feels like a tacked-on subplot, Po’s two fathers, Mr Ping (James Hong) and Li (Bryan Cranston), are on a quest to find their missing son.

Packed with butt-kicking action sequences, among them an inspired bar fight at the Happy Bunny Tavern as the building teeters atop a cliff, oddball new characters like the insult-spewing Fish who lives in a pelican’s gullet, and vividly colourful, it’s most definitely energetic but it doesn’t have the emotional pull or the good jokes of the previous films nor does it include the Furious Five (apparently off on their own missions) other than for a final dialogue-free scene as it heads to the predictable selection of the new Dragon Master in what seems to be setting up a TV series spin-off. As a likely final big screen outing, it’s undemanding fun enough, but the old magic simply isn’t there.

94 minutes


Ghostbusters- Frozen Empire (12A)

Within the first 20 minutes, the film rolls out a couple of old favourites (the Slimer and a bunch of baby Stay Puft figures, now reconfigured as a sort of Marshmallow Minions) to remind you of how good the original was. The rest of the film does too, but not in a good way.

It opens with a flashback to 1904 New York where a bunch of firefighters burst into an ice cold room to find everyone inside frozen to death and discover a mysterious green metallic orb in the possession of a chain-mail veiled figure. Cut to the present as, once again, after capturing the Hell’s Kitchen Sewer Dragon terrorising the city, the Ghostbusters, former science teacher Gary (Paul Rudd), significant other Callie (Carrie Coon), Spengler’s daughter, and her kids Phoebe (a perky Mckenna Grace) and Trevor (Finn Wolfhard), who’ve moved Ecto-1 back to the NY fire station HQ, are confronted by the snide mayor (William Atherton) after the collateral infrastructure damage who announces his determination to shut down both them and the building and effectively bans science whiz kid Phoebe, as a minor (there’s a running – or rather limping – gag with Trevor pointing out he’s now an adult), from playing any part in busting.

There’s also the problem that their ghost containment cell is full to bursting, but fortunately former ‘buster turned philanthropist and sponsor Winston (Ernie Hudson) and his team, deadpan Aussie boffin Lars (James Acaster) and Lucky (Celeste O’Connor) have built a bigger, better one where they have a device that can separate entities from objects to which they have an emotional connection. Which is where, eventually, the central plot kicks in as loser Nadeem (a welcome scene stealing Kumail Nanjiani) offloads some of his late grannie’s possessions to Ray (Dan Aykroyd, one of the few who seem to actually be enjoying things) who’s in the market for the sort of objects Winston’s lab tests. Ray’s especially interested in one in particular, a green metallic ball covered in ancient script.

Inside, as Patton Oswalt’s nerdy netherworld scholar conveniently explains, lurks the spirit of the pre-Sumerian death god Garraka who’s contriving to use both a human and a ghost to get free, regain his horns and consign the whole world to a frozen death. He can even freeze the proton pack beams. His scheme involves Melody (Emily Alyn Lind), who Phoebe meets in Central Park as her ghostly chess opponent, who died along with her folks in a fire (flames flicker from her spirit form), while it turns out that Nadeem also has a vital role to play as the Fire Master, a descendent of early ghostbusters.

Along with Annie Potts returning as Janine, Bill Murray is back cameoing on autopilot as Peter Venkman, but both feel like just another shrugging nod to the franchise. There’s a constant stream of action and livelier than the turgid Afterlife, but there just doesn’t feel any sense of energy on the screen and nothing about the busting makes you feel good. Time to disconnect the line I think.

115 mins


Migration (PG)

There’s a scene where a family of Mallards stumble upon a battery farm where ducks are reared in luxury before being shipped off to a chef that is almost identical to the same set-up in Dawn Of The Nugget. Coincidence, of course, but the comparison does it no favours.

The Mallards in question are a family headed up by Mack ((Kumail Nanjiani), an overprotective father who refuses to let his more adventurous wife Pam (Elizabeth Banks), or curious kids, teen son Dax (Caspar Jennings), and duckling daughter Gwen (Tresi Gazal), leave the safety of their New England pond, telling them nightmarish bedtime stories so they’ll be too scared to try. However, when another family of ducks stop over en route to migrating to Jamaica, he’s badgered into agreeing to make the trip too, joined by their grumpy Uncle Dan (Danny DeVito). Inevitably, they fly the wrong way and end up in New York where they run into a gang of pigeons, their leader, Chump (Awkwafina), happening to know a parrot, Delroy (Keegan-Michael Key), who knows the way to Jamaica from where he was taken. They just have to rescue him from the cage where he’s kept imprisoned by the aforementioned Chef (Boris Rehlinger) whose speciality is duck à l’orange and who, in his personal helicopter, is soon on their trail.

It’s a fairly thin plot with well-worn messages about family, overcoming narrow-mindedness and facing your fears, with constant references to being eaten and a meeting with a heron (Carol Kane) who might have ulterior motives to taking them in from a storm (she does offer them a frying pan to sleep in) likely to give more sensitive toddlers a restless night.

Colourful but forgettable, it passes the time painlessly enough but there’s more fun to be had in the 10 minute Minions short Mooned that precedes this decidedly lame duck.

83 minutes


Chicken Run

Chicken Run: Dawn Of The Nugget (PG)

Back in 2000, Aardman Animation released their first feature film, the story of a bunch of chickens escaping from their captivity in a chicken farm, going on to become the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film in history. Now, 23 years later comes the sequel. And if the first film was parody of The Great Escape, the template this time, as is made clear from one of the lines, is Mission Impossible.
Living in a self-governing island community, secreted away from humans, Ginger (now voiced by Thandiwe Newton), who led the escape, and her American rooster hubbie Rocky (now voiced by Zachary Levi),the self-styled Lone Free Ranger, are thrilled when they become proud parents to their first chick, Molly (Bella Ramsey). Molly, like her mother, is rebellious with a sense of adventure, but is firmly told she must never venture across to the mainland and a “world that finds chickens so … delicious”. It’s a warning that becomes even more important when Ginger sees humans clearing the trees on the opposite shore and a Fun-Land Farm truck with an image of a chicken in a bucket.
Needless to say, mum having told her she’s a big brave girl, Molly pays no attention and sneaks away to find out more, meeting up with curly-haired Liverpudlian chicken Frizzle (Josie Sedgwick-Davies),who persuades her to join her and infiltrate this apparent chicken blue sky utopia (a sort of Barbieland meets Teletubbies landscape) with all the corn you can eat and where every chicken gets their own bucket and lives a life of supreme happiness.
Except, of course, it proves to be anything but and the slogan “Where chickens find their happy endings” has a definite irony. The collars the chickens wear turning them into blank, hypnotised zombies who just can’t wait to climb the staircase to the glowing sun, to the accompaniment of Cliff Richard’s Summer Holiday, oblivious that they’re going to be turned into chicken nuggets.
So now, having broken out of a farm in the first film, Ginger now leads a mission to break into one. To which end she’s joined by both Rocky and her returning feathered friends, knitting enthusiast Babs (Jane Horrocks), Busty (Imelda Staunton), Mac (Lynn Ferguson) and the elderly Fowler (now voiced by David Bradley) who can’t stop talking about his wartime exploits. Back too are scavenger rats the cynical Nick and his dimwit accomplice Fetcher, this time round voiced by Romesh Ranganathan and Daniel Mays, lending a hand to save their ‘niece’ Molly.
Once within the heavily fortified compound, which looks like a Bond villain lair (robotic mole sentries, pop-up vacuum tubes and laser-guided iron ducks), it’s a race against time before evil scientist Dr Fry (Nick Mohammed) delivers the promised supply of nuggets to Reginald Smith (Peter Serafinowicz), the owner of the Sir Eat-A-Lot fast food franchise. Which is when Ginger gets the shock of her life to discover Dr Fry’s wife and partner is none other than Mrs Tweedy (Miranda Richardson), the owner of the farm they escaped from and who she thought had fallen to her death. And when Tweedy realises Ginger is leading an attempt to free these chickens, it all gets very revenge personal. And when all seems lost, ingeniously popcorn proves to have more uses than just stuffing your face.

Naturally full of puns and old fashion humour (there’s a couple of bottom jokes for the young sniggerers) with clever contemporary gags involving a retinal scanner (and eye-pad) as well as nods to the likes of The Truman Show and Squid Game for the grown up along with a message to mums and dads about their children spreading their wings but keeping them safe at the same time. It may not bring about a mass avoidance of KFC, but it might just prompt a few thoughts about where those breadcrumbed bites come from.

97 minutes


Wonka (PG)

Right up there at the top of quality street, celebrations are in order for this fabulous prequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Family, one that may be sweeter in tone to the average Roald Dahl story but still has room for his grotesque  villains.  Co-written by Paddington 2’s Simon Farnaby with director  Paul King, it’s an origin story that opens with a young magician Willy Wonka (an effortlessly charming Timothée Chalamet in top hat and purple coat) returning home after seven years at sea to pursue his dream of becoming the world’s greatest chocolatier, one instilled in him by his late mother (Sally Hawkins), whose hand-signed chocolate bar he carries with him along with her promise that she’d be with him when he sold his first chocolate.

As such he sets off to Paris, intending to set up shop in the Galeries Gourmet only, thanks to kind heart, carelessness and a fine for daydreaming, he find himself penniless  and is duped by the unscrupulous Dickensian yellow-toothed innkeeper Mrs. Scrubbit (Olivia Colman), who, with her dimwit henchman, Bleacher (Tom Davis), a couple surely inspired by The Twits, runs a scam whereby guests who don’t read the small print wind up as unpaid labour in her laundry business. Here he finds himself working along fellow victims  former accountant, Abacus Crunch (Jim Carter), telephone operator Lottie Bell (Rakhee Thakrar), plumber Piper Benz (Natasha Rothwell), aspirant naff comedian Larry Chucklesworth (Rich Fulcher) and Noodle (a scene stealing Calah Lane), a smart orphan dropped down the laundry chute as an infant and “taken in” for a lifetime of servitude by Mrs. Scrubbit and whose backstory is a pivotal plot point.

However, she and Wonka come up with a plan that allows him to sneak out and try and sell his chocolates which, in turn, causes him to fall further foul of the chocolate cartel, Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Prodnose (Matt Lucas) and Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton), who retches evert time he hears the  word poor, and who, along with the corrupt chocaholic chief of police (Keegan-Michael Key) and in cahoots with an equally corrupt priest (Rowan Atkinson), band together to ensure he’ll never be competition to their high-priced confectionary. He also finds himself with a problem in that at night his chocolates keep getting stolen by a tiny green-haired orange man, who, it transpires, is an Oompa Loompa, who’s on a mission to collect the debt Wonka owes for having unwittingly ‘stolen’ his island’s cocoa pods.

And when, with the help of his fellow laundry inmates,  he does manage to open an  emporium for his fantastical endorphins-packed mood changing chocolates (among them hoverchocs with encased bugs which make you fly), success turns to failure through the dirty tricks of Scrubbit and the cartel, the trio of villains forcing him to make a deal to leave town and, eventually, when they attempt to expose them, consigning Willy and Noodle to a literal death by chocolate.

A wildly colourful affair, crammed with contraptions (Willy’s suitcase is a chocolatier’s answer to Newt Scamander’s in Fabulous Beasts), comedy capers and all manner of exotic chocolates,  not to mention a  giraffe that Willy milks to make his candies, the selection box is also packed with a galaxy of fabulously choreographed and sung song and dance routines (Chalamet is a treat at both), reprising Pure Imagination from the 1971 film as well as Grant doing the Oompa Loompa alongside new numbers such as the catchy A World of Your Own which, like King, clearly had Mary Poppins in mind as a template. Raising the bar for Christmas movies, it’s an absolute chocolate fountain delight golden ticket that should  become a seasonal sweet tooth staple.

116 minutes

Apple TV

The Inseparables (U)

Written by two of the writers behind Toy Story and sharing the same idea of toys coming to life when humans aren’t around, this is set in New York’s Central Park where, following the death of their elderly puppet-maker, a bunch of living wooden puppets continue to entertain the crowds. The plays always follow the same line, narrated by the sun that hovers overhead, the pompous preening Alfonso always play the hero, Dee is the damsel in distress and the balding Don is the clown who always ends up with a pie in his face.  Dee and Don are both fed up with being typecast, but it’s only he, who fantasises about being a knight hero, who eventually does something about it, leaving the theatre and heading off out into the park in search of the castle in the clouds. Here he encounters rapping toy DJ Doggy Dog, discarded after being stolen by a  couple of teenage boy and girl pickpockets at the theatre, and announces that he, whose far more cautious, can be Sancho Panza to his Don Quixote (the Cervantes story is the obvious template complete with a windmill from which Don rescues a trapped duckling).

As they journey, Don’s imagination has him clad in knightly armour and wielding a sword as he faces a variety of challenges (the sewers become the inside of a whale, a yappy Pomeranian is a  fierce lion and not least the windmill dragon), all of which are rendered in regular rather than  three-dimensional animation, eventually finding himself faced with a real mission to rescue his fellow puppets which have been stolen by the two thieves who intend to sell them off.

With a clear message about finding your inner hero and not, as in the case of DJ’s single pre-recorded rap, following the script written for you by others, it’s not on a  par with Woody and co., but it does have  more than enough wit, charm and spark to keep its young audiences engaged.

90 minutes

Apple TV

Wish (PG)

The latest Disney animated venture from the director behind Frozen, this feels like a rehash of themes and ideas from the studios past and better films. It’s set in Rosas, a mythical Mediterranean island kingdom where, when they turn 18, the citizens hand over their biggest wish to not entirely benevolent self-taught self-absorbed sorcerer King Magnifico (Chris Pine doing his best but simply not good enough) who keeps them safe in bubbles in his castle conservatory, in the hope he will one day grant them, he insisting it’s a small price to pray for their safety.

However, when, having poked her nose where it didn’t belong in an audition to become his apprentice, Magnifico not only refuses to grant her grandfather Sabino’s wish (to play guitar and sing to people) for his 100th birthday but tells her it will never be granted (inspiring people’s too dangerous), feisty biracial 17-year-old Asha (Ariana DeBose), starts to question things. That night, wanting more for herself and her kingdom, she wishes on a star and suddenly along comes Star, a glowing cute little orb (and plush merchandising opportunity) that confers her pet goat Valentino (Alan Tudyk), as the obligatory anthropomorphic sidekick, and other assorted animals, with the power to speak and the three of them set about planning to free all the wishes Magnifico is holding captive.

While Magnifico is pretty much standard issue Disney villain, here he does have an initially sympathetic backstory and good intentions, but is seduced into his tyranny by using the power of dark magic, alienating him from his good-hearted Queen (Angelique Cabral), who leans towards Asha’s vision of a free and united kingdom. However, while DeBose is charming enough and Tudyk gets some snarky lines, the film is a decidedly lacklustre affair, with unmemorable songs and the Spider-Verse styled combination of 2D and 3D animation lacks sparkle. It also has an unfortunate habit of referencing previous Disney gems (Asha’s friends, among them Dahlia and comical cynic Gabo, are basically rehashes of the Seven Dwarfs, and there’s a deer called Bambi), extended to the end credits where characters like Pinocchio and Snow White appear as constellation-style twinkling stars, that simply reinforces how inferior it is. Younger children, girls especially, will find it entertaining enough but they might wish for something better next time.

95 minutes


The Marvels (12A)

This brings together three female superheroes who all have, in different forms, the ability to harness the power of light. That’ll be Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) in a follow-up to Miss Marvel, now roaming the galaxy in her own spacecraft, Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), the now grown astronaut daughter of Carol’s late best friend Maria (Lashana Lynch), who works alongside Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) in his new SABER organisation and gained her powers in WandaVision (and whose lack of a code name serves as a running gag), and New Jersey’s Pakistani-American schoolgirl Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), from the Disney+ TV series (its use of animation incorporated in introducing her here), an over-exuberant Miss Marvel mega-fan whose powers come from a magical bracelet.

The bracelet, or quantum band, however, turns out to have a Kree origin and is one of a pair, the other being recovered at the start of the film by Dar-Benn (Zawe Ashton) who has an understandable vendetta against Danvers – who the Kree know as The Annhilator for reasons explained later– and needs the two of them to restore life to her home planet of Hela. As such, her motives are sympathetic, her means, which include trying to wipe out the Skrulls, rather less so. Her acquisition of the bangle also causes the three Marvels to body-swap (quantum entanglement, apparently) every time they use their powers, initially creating havoc in Kamala’s home, then affording some skipping rope fun and later proving invaluable in the battle with Dar-Benn.

Despite a plot that involves intergalactic genocide and planet asset stripping, there’s a great deal of playfulness here, notably a sequence set on a world where Miss Marvel is a marriage of convenience princess and where everyone dances as they sing their dialogue and one where, in an effort to evacuate the space station, Fury has the crew ‘eaten’ up by a horde of Flerken kitties who spew purple tentacles that swallow things up, all scored to Memory from Andrew Lloyd-Weber’s Cats musical.
There’s also a great deal of hanging out and banter between the three heroes, all of whom have their own identity issues, the actresses making good use of their individual skill sets and personalities as the film digs into their characters. The problem is, however, what with jump points opening up everywhere in the space, and the action leaping from planet to planet, the narrative is frequently borderline incoherent. Fortunately, unlike the recent slate of Marvel outings, this has a trim running time into which it packs an inordinate amount of plot, redemption and coming of age arcs and action sequences.

Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur and Saagar Shaikh add extra comedic touches as Kamala’s concerned and long-suffering parents and older brother while Tessa Thompson puts in a quickie crossover appearance as Valkyrie, the film closing up with the briefly united trio now on their individual plotlines, providing two mid-credits sequences; the first with a cameo from Hawkeye’s Kate Bishop (Hailee Stanfield) as Ms Marvel sets out to create a new team, and the second, with Rambeau now in a parallel universe, a new incarnation for Maria and the return of Kelsey Grammar’s Hank McCoy from the X-Men series. If superhero fatigue doesn’t overwhelm, that’s at least three new sequels or spin-offs in the wings.

105 minutes


Trolls Band Together (U)

It’s extremely unlikely that the target audience – or indeed their parents –  will have ever heard of  90s American boyband NSYNC or care that the film marks their first new music in 22 years, reuniting them with former member Justin Timberlake who provides the voice of Branch, the grumpy grey Troll now officially dating (though both protest any idea of marriage) the pink Poppy (Anna Kendrick), queen of the Trolls. However, he has a secret in that, as Baby Branch,  he was once part of siblings boy band BroZone before he screwed up on stage and the others walked out on him.

This comes to light when one of his estranged brothers, John Dory (Eric André), turns up out of the blue proposing a band reunion and another brother Floyd (Troye Sivan) is kidnapped by Velvet (Amy Schumer) and Veneer (Andrew Rannells), a talentless brother-sister double act who intend to chemically extract his talent to win a singing contest. The only way to stop them is for BroZone to reunite and use their family harmony to shatter his diamond prison and save him. In fact, Branch isn’t the only one to have a surprise sibling turn up with the exuberant  Viva (Camila Cabello) announcing she’s Poppy’s long lost sister.

Each Trolls film seems to get more bonkers and trippy than the last and this is decidedly out there (at one point Cloud Guy vomits rainbow glitter), returning characters including Bridget (Zooey Deschanel), the Bergen monster who gets married wearing a wedding dress of white helium balloons hiding a trouser suit and roller skates,  the silver sparkly scene stealing Tiny (Kenan Thompson), and King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) while among the new names to the franchise there’s Ru Paul (Miss Maxine) and Kid Cudi and  Daveed Diggs as the other brothers, Clay and Spruce. Naturally, it’s littered with boyband puns (One Direction, Backtsreet Boys, Boyz To Men, etc.), NYSNCs’ Better Place and an array of R&B tracks (as  well as a version of Dolly Parton’s 9 to 5 by Zosia Mamet  as the duo’s put-upon assistant Crimp) while the vibrant, loopy animation even takes a trip into psychedelic 2D as it rams home its we are family message. Barking mad but a sugar rush of fun.

92 minutes

Apple TV

Spy Kids: Armageddon (PG)

Some of you may remember the original Spy Kids films which, written and directed by Robert Rodriguez had Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara discovering that their parents Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino were secret agents, the four teaming up on missions. Well, forget all that. This reboot has the same premise but an entirely new family with Zachary Levi and Gina Rodriguez as OSS agents Terrence Tango and Nora Torrez. It opens with their young kids game whizz Tony (Connor Esterson) and  smartypants Patty (Everly Carganilla) dodging traps and guards as they seek to prevent something called Armageddon before plummeting down a lift. It then flashes back as we learn that Armageddon is a top secret code invented by Terrence that can access anything and that a game inventor who calls himself The King (Billy Magnussen) I trying to steal it for his own purposes. And to access their security systems, he sneaks through the backdoor when he makes Tony, whose dad clamps down on too much tech,  the winner of his new game Hyscore, unleashing a virus when he plays, sending his game characters to capture the code. Mum and dad send the kids off to a safe house, Nora giving Patty the key to one half of unlocking Armageddon. And when they discover the truth about their parents in the secret aid, they decide to become spy themselves, going through training and creating sky suits, to rescue mum and dad and defeat The King using their video game skills.

Unusually the villain of the piece wants to rule the world, but only so he can make it a nicer place which  rather makes the whole race to stop him a bit underwhelming, but hey, the message is people have to be nice because they want to not because they’re forced to play video games to get what they want. Pitched very much at eight-year-olds who still like playing make-believe, it looks fairly cheap with its special effects and gadgets, the adults sound bored with it all and the kids are, quite frankly, as amateurish and childish as their dialogue. But then it never really pretends to be anything other than what it is as it heads to an ending that has the bad guy having a change of heart and the kids becoming proper OSS spies readying up for any potential sequel. Still, it passes the time amiably enough.

97 minutes


You Are So Not Invited To My Bat Mitzvah! (12)

One of Netflix’s biggest hits this year, though produced by Adam Sandler he takes a backseat as, adapted by Alison Peck from  Fiona Rosenbloom’s novel, he plays Danny Friedman, father to daughters Ronnie, the serious one, and the more immature Stacy, played respectively by his own daughters  Sadie and  Sunny, while reuniting with Uncut Gems co-star Idira Menzel as his wife.  The younger of the two, Sunny is approaching her bat mitzvah, the Jewish coming-of-age ritual at 13, in which she has to read passages from the Torah and devise a charity project. She, of course, is more concerned about the accompanying party as she and best friend Lydia (Samantha Lorraine), whose mother’s played by Sandler’s wife Jackie, enthusing over themes and what the future will hold, like adjoining homes in Taylor Swift’s Tribeca building. Lydia writes Stacy’s speech and she in turn offers to put together her entrance video biography.

Things, however, soon turn pear-shaped starting with Stacy leaping off a cliff into the water in order to impress her crush, class heartthrob Andy Goldfarb (Dylan Hoffman), resulting in a humiliating moment, and a subsequent falling out with Lydia when she sees her kissing him, prompting the angry declaration of the title and a rather cruel revenge.

Comparisons with Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret are inevitable, not least in Stacy’s own chats with the Man Upstairs, while it also follows genre  conventions such as the school’s catty queen bees, the embarrassing parents (Danny’s dad jokes), the shopping sequences and all those girls want to be grown up moments, here largely embodied in  a geeky friend being excited to finally shave her legs.

Although it helps considerably if you’re familiar with Jewish  culture to get the references and appreciate the jokes involving Jewish mothers, dads, grannies and aunts, it’s nevertheless all very sweet and consistently funny, the entire Sandler clan having solid comedic chops (though Sunny is undoubtedly the star turn) while great support comes from Sarah Sherman as the perky Rabbi Rebecca (who gets to sing God Is Random in response to her class asking why He allows injustice) and Ido Mosseri as the wildly over the top DJ Schmuley.  Forget the invite, this is well worth crashing the party.

103 minutes


Blue Beetle (12A)

Drawing on the most recent version of the character (though the film references two previous incarnations from 1939 and 1964), this presents the first Latino super-hero in the DC universe in the form of Jamie Reyes (Cobra Kai star Xolo Maridueña). He’s a recent Gotham University law graduate who, returning to his Texas home in Palmera City, finds prospects are few and his Mexican family, grandmother Nana (Adriana Barazza), mum Rocio (Elpidia Carrillo), dad  Alberto (Damián Alcázar) and conspiracy nut tech wiz uncle Rudy (George Lopez), who live in a poor neighbourhood, are about to lose their home. While out house cleaning with his sister Milagro (Belissa Escobedo) at the Kord mansion he sparks a connection with subsequent romantic interest Jenny Kord (Bruna Marquezine), whose aunt Victoria (Susan Sarandon) took control of Kord Industries from Jenny’s father, Ted, died,  and has  plans to create  a privatised police force called One-Man Army Corps. However, Jenny manages to steal a crucial part of the  project and slip it to an unsuspecting Jamie who, returning home, discovers to his surprise that the fast food box she gave him contains a blue metallic scarab. Even more of a surprise is that it attaches itself to him, fusing with his mind and body, covering him in armour with a pair of blue pincers on his back, the ability to fly and, as the voice inside his head (Becky G), which controls the scarab, tells him,  create any weapon he can imagine.  He’s a regular super-hero. There’s just two downsides. The only way to be rid of it is to die. And Victoria wants it back. Now, together Jamie, Jenny and his family (nana revealing an unexpected secret past) need to obtain a key  to her father’s old lab and defeat Carapax (Raoul Max Trujillo), an OMAC prototype, all culminating in an explosive climax on an island just off Cuba.

Comic book nerds will enjoy the references to the two earlier Blue Beetles as well as The Bug, an armoured VTOL vehicle with yellow fly-like eyes, while   director Ángel Manuel Soto carries along  newcomers with a potent mix of high octane (and at times quite violent) action and the emotional undercurrent of family being there for each other, serious when the narrative requires it but also with a light-hearted humour reminiscent of the first Ant-Man. Maridueña energetically plays Jamie, bewildered by what’s happening to him,  with a combination of ingenuousness and grit while the largely unknown support cast all hold up their end of proceedings to solid and engaging effect with the visual effects suitably spectacular. As a launch of a new chapter in the DC universe, this should leave you truly bug-eyed.

127 mins

Disney +

Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles – Mutant Mayhem (PG)

Created as a comic book by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird in 1984 to parody superhero stories, three underwhelming live action adaptations arrived in the early 90s with a seeming last gasp fourth arriving as computer animation in 2007.  Two animated reboots followed in 2014 and 2016, the first a huge success, the second a flop. Now comes another reboot which, directed by Jeff Rowe, who made The Mitchells vs The Machines, while computer animated wisely harks back to the hand-drawn look and scribbled lines of the original comics and the early animated TV series and, if not as wildly hyperactive and psychedelic as the Spider-Verse films, has a compelling dynamic visual energy to  match a sharp script.

It goes back to the beginning to provide an origin story as, breaking with his employers and their military ambitions, scientist Dr Stockman (Giancarlo Esposito) created a bunch of mutant embryos in an underground lab and, when a Techno Cosmic Research Institute strike force was  sent by his erstwhile boss Cynthia Utro (Maya Rudolph) to seize his work, he ended up dead while  a vial of his mutant-inducing  green goo (henceforth known as the ooze)  seeped into the New York sewers, mutating for baby turtles and the rat that took them in. Fast forward 15 years and the now teenage turtles, named (but never explained in the film after Renaissance Italian artists) Donatello (Micah Abbey), Michelangelo (Shamon Brown Jr), Raphael (Brady Noon) and the self-serious Leonardo (Nicolas Cantu), live secretly in the sewers, only venturing out at night to obtain groceries – especially pizza – for themselves and their overprotective surrogate father, Splinter (Jackie Chan), who, after an initial attempt to mingle with humans ended in disaster, trained them in the martial arts and forbade them to reveal themselves to the world, warning that humans will want to capture them and “milk” them for their mutant DNA. They, however, yearn to be accepted, and go to school, sneaking off to watch a film or a concert (Beyonce gets namechecked)  while out foraging. Such opportunity presents itself when they accidentally  cross paths with April O’Neill (Ayo Edebiri), an aspiring high school reporter (nicknamed Puke Girl, but you need to see the hilarious gross out scene to know why) and set off to recover her motorbike when it’s stolen which, in turn, involves them in her quest to find out who’s behind a series of high tech thefts, reportedly the work of someone known as Superfly (Ice Cube), she filming their Turtles’ exploits to present them as heroes.

This, it turns out, is the grown version of Stockman’s original creation who saw off the attackers and escaped with the other creature he was experimented on and who now form his mutated followers  Genghis Frog (Hannibal Buress), alligator Leatherhead (Rose Byrne), rhino Rocksteady (John Cena), bat Wingnut (Natasia Demetriou), manta Ray Fillet (Post Malone), warthog Bebop (Seth Rogen, also one of the co-writers), Mondo Gecko (a scene stealing Paul Rudd amusingly credited as “introducing”) and the indeterminate Scumbug. The Turtles are initially delighted to learn they have mutant cousins who also desire  to be accepted, until they learn of Superfly’s plant to mutate all creatures  and wipe out humans, leading up to an explosive climax as they, Splinter (who gets a far bigger action role this time), April and the others battle to defeat the now supermutated Superfly.

Channelling themes about acceptance, intolerance of difference, family, friendship, coming of age and the need to work together, the inspired casting of actual teenagers injecting relevance and authenticity into the Turtles’ banter, the film rattles along with a series of exhilarating action sequences intermingled with self-aware  pop culture gags such as a cardboard cut of Chris Prine’s Captain Kirk. It is, perhaps, excessively violent in places, especially the use of knives, for the young audience but with the obligatory mid-credits scene setting up a Shredder sequel, the heroes in a half shell are back where they belong.

99 minutes

Paramount +

Elemental (PG)

While undeniably visually dazzling, the latest from Pixar Fire recycles some very well-worn themes and messages about family, prejudice, working together, tolerance, opposites attract, self-discovery and finding your courage.  It’s set in a world of characters formed of the four elements, with fire elements Bernie (Ronnie Del Carmen) and  Cinder (Shila Ommi) Lumen (clearly  Chinese) emigrating to Element City looking for a better life where, despite encountering xenophobia from the other elements and struggling to find a home (the landlords are all earth, tree-like figures who see fire as a hazard), they eventually set up a convenience store called the Fireplace with a symbolic Blue Flame  representing their heritage and traditions, selling things like coal nuts. They have a daughter, the dutiful if headstrong Ember (Leah Lewis),  whom Bernie intends to take over the store when he retires. But first she had to learn to control her fiery temper. When a difficult customer causes that to flare up, she takes refuge in the basement, accidentally causing a water pipe to break, flooding the place and bringing water element Wade Ripple (Mamoudou Athie), into her life. A city inspector, he has to report the faulty plumbing to his cloud-like air element boss Gale Cumulus, meaning the Fireplace will get shut down. But he’s also a soppy romantic and he persuades Gale to let them both try and find and stop the source of a series of recent floods. If they can seal the leak, the shop can remain open.

Discovering a hole in a dam that lets through water from passing ships, and, first using sandbags and then Ember’s power to create glass, they appear to have solved the problem. And, in the process, a, ahem, spark, develops between them, discovering they can touch each other without causing any harm. But, while Wade’s upmarket family welcome her into their home, Ember’s ailing father seems highly unlikely to accept a Fire and Water relationship , on top of which, Ember comes to realise her dreams for herself are not the same as his. She wants to study glassmaking.  But it’s her duty to obey. And then the fix in the dam gives way, catastrophe looms and love might quite literally evaporate.

Aside from the characters’  names, it’s awash with visual and verbal puns (two of the best being a literal Mexican wave  and thought bubble) and, despite gaping holes in the logic (why would fire opt to go and live in a water-based city, why doesn’t Ember set the cardboard boxes alight?), it combines a spry sense of fun ( the Ripple family’s crying game is a joy) along with the usual romantic and emotional complications, the blossoming love story involving Wade taking Ember into the flooded Garden Central Station to see  the Vivisteria flowers she never saw as a child. As such, while the youngsters will enjoy the vividly coloured visuals and the enjoyable silliness of the air and earth figures (though hope they don’t ask  to have ‘pruning’ explained), this is very much a hugely enjoyable and thoughtful grown up star-crossed love story that touches on living in a multicultural melting pot society. A rare case where parents really should persuade the kids to let them take them to see it.

101 minutes

Dsiney +


Nimona (PG)

Opening with the heroic Gloreth establishing an order of knights dedicated to protecting the world from the monsters that lurk outside its walls, this animated fantasy adventure fast forwards a 1000 years to a  futuristic city and, headed by The Director (Frances Conroy),  the Institute where the queen is about to appoint  new knights from the graduating cadets, among them Ambrosius Goldenloin (Eugene Lee Yang), a descendent of Gloreth, and Ballister Boldheart (Riz Ahmed). The latter is controversial given that he will be the first commoner accorded such an honour in the queen’s intention to give everyone a chance to be a hero and Ballister is understandly worried that, like  bullying fellow cadet Todd (Beck Bennett) everyone will hate him. Instead, he’s met with cheers- until, that is, a laser ray shoots from his high-tech sword and kills the queen, leading to Ambrosius chopping off his  arm and Bal fleeing, a wanted murderer. But then, in hiding, he finds himself visited by Nimona (Chloë Grace Moretz), a rebellious punky teenager outsider who, assuming him to be a villain, declares herself his self-appointed sidekick (“Because I’m bored, and everyone hates me too”). She is, however, more than a sassy, sparky, streetsmart misfit teen. As he discovers when she rescues him from prison, she’s a shapeshifter capable of transforming into a pink rhino, bear,  bird, a whale and even a  dancing shark, who revels in causing chaos and smashing things up. She is, in fact, exactly the sort of monster the knights are supposed to destroy. Instead, the two now find themselves joining forces to clear Bal’s name and expose the real murderer. The identity of whom it’s not too hard to work out, but then, as the opening voiceover states, things have a habit of not having the simply resolved happy endings fairytales usually demand.

Adapted from a subversive graphic novel by ND Stevenson and rescued by Netflix after being cancelled by Disney, this is very much a contemporary 2D-3D animation,  not just in its dazzling visuals but in its storyline and themes. It’s revealed early on that Bal and Ambrosius are gay lovers while, uncomfortable in her ‘normal’ skin,  Nimona is driven by a need to transition. Meanwhile, with the inventive narrative, twisting there’s also familiar messages about intolerance, irrational prejudice and how, in as world where kids “grow up believing that they can be a hero if they drive a sword into the heart of anything different”, if we treat people as monsters, they’re likely to become monsters.

With her catchphrase ‘metal’ and plans that rarely go beyond “Chaos, destruction, something-something-something, we win”, Nimona is a priceless animated anti-hero, her spirit and irreverent humour exuberantly captured by Moretz’s voice work while Ahmed brings the pathos and more serious notes. Driven by a punk-fuelled soundtrack that includes The Banana Splits and guitar riffs by former Sex Pistols Steve Jones, it barrels along with fast-paced action and an utterly infectious sense of anarchy and fun. The ending lays possible ground for a sequel, and one would be very welcome indeed. 101 minutes


The Little Mermaid (PG)

The 1989 original having revitalised Disney’s animation, directed by Rob Marshall this now does the same for the studio’s live action remakes which have steadily gone from the awesome Mulan to the turgid Pinocchio. You’ll be familiar with the story, driven by curiosity, headstrong dreamer teenage mermaid Ariel (Halle Bailey) ignores her father, Triton (Javier Bardem), King of the Seas, who, after her mother as killed, forbids her to go to the surface or, worse, make contact with humans. As such, during a storm, she saves the life of Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King) and is taken with his kindness (he rescues a dog from the burning galleon) and good looks, while, hazily glimpsing her as he lies on the shore, he’s equally smitten. When dad finds out, he’s furious, destroying her grotto of human artefacts and ordering her to forget about him. Which is where his evil octopus sister Ursula (Melissa McCarthy cackling madly and chewing the seaweed scenery), the Sea Witch, assisted by her electric hencheels Flotsam and Jetsam, sees her opportunity and strikes a deal with Ariel; she’ll use her magic to make her human for three days but, if she and Eric haven’t had a true love kiss by the third sunset, she’ll be bound to her forever. And just to load the deck, she takes away Ariel’s siren voice (with which she saved Eric) and casts a spell to make her forget all about smooching. On land and with feet, she’s reunited with Eric but he doesn’t recognise her as the girl he’s looking for and she can’t speak. So, it’s down to her briny friends, tropical fish Flounder (Jacob Tremblay), Caribbean-accented red crab Sebastian (Daveed Diggs) and dim-witted gannet Scuttle (Awkwafina) to try and make the kiss happen before it’s too late.

Reworking Ariel’s giggling sisters in a feminist makeover to rulers of each of the seven seas, adding in new characters in the form of Eric’s adoptive mother, the Queen (Noma Dumezweni), and her factotum Grimsby (Art Malik) and making Eric more soulful than in the cartoon, while pretty much faithful to events in the original it also adds an extra hour to the running time, filling it out with stunningly beautiful underwater sequences and, Grimsby turning a blind eye, Eric and Ariel’s day out mixing and dancing the locals.
To be honest, Hauer-King is a little flat in the charisma stakes and his solo musical number, Wild Uncharted Waters, doesn’t come close to the performances elsewhere, most notably Diggs’ rendition of the calypso Under The Sea or, joined by Tremblay and Awkafina, Kiss The Girl, while, with new lyrics (as on several other songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda), McCarthy makes a meal of Poor Unfortunate Souls. There’s also a couple of new songs, Awkwafina and Diggs on the speed rap Scuttlebut and For The First Time sung by the wide-eyed Bailey (a five-time Grammy nominee with her sister Chloe, who, in her first leading role proves to be an incandescent discovery and knocks the showstopper Part Of Your World out of the ocean ballpark.
Looking stunning on the widescreen with jawdropping digital details such as Ariel’s shimmering rainbow tail, there moments that might prove dark and scary for younger audiences (Ariel and Flounder chased by a shark, the shipwreck, Ursula’s forbidding cave and her monster-sized finale), but, with its inevitable message about living in harmony rather than division, this is generally a fairy tale tsunami of unbridled joy that invites you to be part of its world.

135 minutes


Peter Pan & Wendy (PG)

The latest live action remake of a Disney animated classic goes back to the title of JM Barrie’s book, placing Wendy firmly in the spotlight alongside the boy who refused to grow up. Directed by David Lowery, who also did the live remake of Pete’s Dragon, keeps several details from the cartoon, notably Peter’s green hat and costume and the top hat and teddy bear associated with the Darling brothers Michael and John, but there’s some substantial updates too, such that, played by Yara Shahidi, Tinker Bell is now biracial, no longer an outdated stereotype Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatâhk) gets a more heroic role and the Lost Boys include Lost Girls too. More significantly, Captain Hook (Jude Law, stealing the film) is completely reimagined to give a backstory with Peter that makes him a more poignantly sympathetic figure than any previous portrayals and also casts Peter in a very different, selfish and at times cynical light. Rather like what happens to Hook’s ship in the big swashbuckling climax, it turns their relationship upside down. There is, though, still the crocodile.
Adopting an often dark tone, literally and psychologically, it opens in Victorian England at the home of the Darlings where Michael (Jacobi Jupe) and John (Joshua Pickering) are acting out the swordfights from the bedtime stories of Peter Pan, but here older sister Wendy (Ever Anderson) enthusiastically joins in, only to be reprimanded by her father (Alan Tudyk) and mother (Molly Parker) for not setting a good example. This Wendy, resentful of being about to be sent to boarding school, is also a touch feisty, snappily saying she wants her own life, not her mother’s. Later she will slap Peter in the face for being reckless.

That night, she and the brothers are awoken by a visit from Tinker Bell and Peter (Alexander Molony), very much real and not just a character in a story, who’s come to recover his shadow and, responding to her wish to never grow up, and, with the help of pixie dust and happy thoughts, takes them flying off to Neverland. However, no sooner do they arrive than they’re bombarded by Hook’s ship, John and Michael are captured, Tinker Bell and Peter are missing in action and Wendy washes up on the shore to be found by Tiger Lily and the ethnically diverse Lost Boys led by Slightly (Down’s syndrome teenager Noah Matthews Matofsky).

Though, naturally, everything works out happily, Lowery doesn’t refrain from scenes likely to scare youngsters, such as Hook ordering the children to be executed and tying John and Michael to Skull Rock to drown before Peter resurfaces and comes to the rescue. Some of the pirates also end up as croc-fodder.
There’s a couple of nice line reversals, pointing that, in returning to London, you need to actually take the second star to the left and go straight on ’til morning, and Wendy telling Peter that to grow up might be the greatest adventure of all, and, while it may have flaws, this is generally a compelling and – dare I say it – grown up telling of a tale about the ambiguities of both wanting to hold on to your childhood and also excited by the potential than the adult world might offer.

109 minutes


The Super Mario Bros. Movie (PG)

Originating in Japan, one of the first platform video games and still hugely popular among all ages, even if the name makes no sense as there’s only one brother called Mario,30 years on the foul odour of the live action adaptation with Bob Hoskins still remains. Reverting to animation, this revival looks to reboot the film franchise by sticking closely to the game’s mechanics involving jumping between platforms, avoiding obstacles and powering up by opening boxes marked with a ?

Following a prologue in which power-hungry Bowser (Jack Black), the king of the turtle-like Koopas, attacks and destroys a city of penguin creatures to get his hands on a power star that will enable him to conquer his entire universe, it then cuts to Brooklyn as Mario (Chris Pratt) and Luigi (Charlie Day) trying to get their plumbing business off the ground, only to end up creating chaos. Then, when they attempt to fix a broken water mains, they’re sucked down a vortex into another dimension. Separated, Luigi ends up in a fiery realm and is taken prisoner by Bowser and as such sidelined for most of the film, while Mario, who hates mushrooms, ironically finds himself in the Oz-like Mushroom Kingdom where, looking to find and rescue his more timid brother, he teams up with the tiny Toad (Keegan-Michael Key) and the warrior-spirited Princess Peach (Anya Taylor-Joy), who accidentally came there as a child. However, it transpires that Bowser is deludedly determined to either marry Peach or destroy her Kingdom, to which end they have to persuade Cranky Kong (Fred Armisen) to loan them his army, which means Mario must first defeat his son, Donkey Kong (Seth Rogan), in gladiatorial platform combat, during which he transforms into a cat. And then defeat Bowser before he can sacrifice his prisoners as a wedding gift to Peach.

Resolutely mirroring the game and loaded with inside references and songs like Holding Out For a Hero and Take On Me, devotees of the game are well-served, though in pretty much every other respect the target audience is 7-year-olds who just want a rush of cute characters, garish colours and non-stop action sequences. As Mario might say, mama mia, here we go again.

92 minutes

Paramount +